Friday, January 18, 2013

ARC Review: The Archived by Victoria Schwab

Thank you to the lovely Southern Book Bloggers for allowing me the chance to be on the ARC tour for this book!

I've been trying to get my mind around The Archived enough to write a clear, concise review. There is a LOT going on in this book that merits discussion.
Then I remembered I never write clear, concise reviews, so we're going to do this all haphazard, as usual.


Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often-violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn't just dangerous-it's a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da's death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.

THE ARCHIVED is undeniably well-written. Victoria Schwab created a thought-provoking, beautiful, frightening, and eerie world in the Narrows and The Archive. Her descriptions are always spot-on, never overdone. Read slowly and take the time to visualize what she's writing about. It's worth it.
Each character and his or her reaction to the losses they've faced were heart-breakingly well drawn and true-to-life. And therein lies my issue with The Archived: This is such a sad book for me. I don't mean that it ends in a tragic way. It closes on a rather hopeful note, actually.
But the novel is almost a meditation on grief and loss, and Schwab does the dang thing right, people.
I cried. A lot.
Mackenzie is so broken inside from the loss of her Da and even more from the unsolved hit-and-run death of her little brother Ben, she's kind of a shell of a person. And that's hard to read, when it's written so believably. Maybe it's because I have a ten year old son (Ben's age when he died), but when Mackenzie really lets herself feel the loss of Ben, I was just a blubbering mess.
There's not much comic relief, but the lighter moments come from Wesley Ayers, and he is a different love interest from many I've read lately. He has an almost violently chipper demeanor, and is so determinedly positive he's like a ball of sunshine next to Mac's nearly constant sadness. You know who he and Mackenzie reminded me of a little? Jesse and Becca from Pitch Perfect. But that might just be because I am currently obsessed with the music from this movie.

*Just put that heavy eyeliner on the guy instead of the girl, and mentally erase the smile on her face, and Presto! You've got Wes and Mac.  BTW, I have been singing all the Pitch Perfect songs in my head for days...I'm beginning to think I have a problem.*

Nitpick: I have a little bit of a hard time believing Mac can kick butt so thoroughly at age 16 against deranged Histories who are fueled by terror and desperation as they try to escape The Narrows. And I have an even harder time believing she had been doing it since she was 12.
I'd give the book a solid "B". The characters were nicely developed and their situations interesting, but I needed more action and less grieving. That's just a personal thing, because I don't handle sad very well. A book as lovely as this deserves all the praise it's getting, but I was a bit overwhelmed by all the loss the characters endure. Still, it's a unique book and like nothing I've read before. Definitely worth giving it a shot.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Review: SERAPHINA by Rachel Hartman

When I read a book that I love (and mean truly, madly, deeply love it, not just really like), I will find myself feeling like this:

*granted, this is not 100% accurate. But it is  disturbingly close!*

SERAPHINA is one of those books.

Let's talk about what I loved. Which was pretty much every dadgum thing:

1. The World Building: There's a tendency in YA fantasy books lately to be a little shoddy in the world-building department. I sometimes find myself saying, "What?? How does that work? What does that look like? Why is the world functioning in this way?"
Seraphina's world (and I am so sorry I can't give names for the kingdoms involved, but I listened to this on audiobook and I don't know how to spell them) of people living in an uneasy truce with dragons is fully drawn, perfectly realized,'s the kicker...believable. I'm starting to look askance at analytical, right-brained, unemotional types I know and be on guard for clues that they're actually dragons in human form.

2. Characterization!!!: Oh, the characters...I love their faces. Their complicated, fallible, lovable, scared, courageous, heroic, terrified, elated, incredibly REAL faces.

*Listen: if you google "I love your face gif" to try and find a perfect illustration for the concept of "I LOVE YOUR FACE!" which is something I say to my kids when I am overcome with how wonderful they are, you will instead find soooooo many beautiful people that it will distract you entirely from your original point, namely, talking about how outstanding a particular book was.*

 Seraphina is my favorite protagonist in a long time. She has weaknesses and worries and doubts, but underneath she's a strong, resilient young woman. She just doesn't know it when the book starts, and she has to grow and change to get there.

Let's take a moment to celebrate real character development:


By the end of the book, Seraphina has stopped being scared and I seriously think I may have cheered outloud when she told Kiggs the truth about herself and her feelings for him.
Oh, Lucian Kiggs. Sometimes when I get really attached to a main character in a book, I'll feel like the love interest isn't worthy of her amazingness.
Not this time. Kiggs is a wonderful character with his own insecurities and struggles to deal with. I cheered for him nearly as much as I did Seraphina.
Even the secondary characters felt like real human beings. Or dragons, whichever the case may be. Or half-dragon/half-human.

3.The writing. It's seamless. It's elegant without being showy. Gif-filled silly posts aside, I actually have a background in writing. Don't tell my former professors or editors about this blog and my incomplete sentences and tendency to ramble and gush and use the word "and" entirely too much. (Am I Walt Whitman over here? He was a big "and" fan, too.)
I guess because I'm a writer, when I find a really well-turned phrase, I get giddy with delight. And then envious.
This book had me both delirious with happiness and sick with envy. And I enjoyed every second of it.
Case in point: "bagpipes brawling" and "chuckling fountains."
See what a perfect adjective does? It makes you think, "Well of course bagpipes brawl and fountains chuckle. How could I have never realized this?"

In a word, the writing is delightful.

4. Plot: Y'all, the plot isn't just about Seraphina, her being a half-dragon and falling slowly in love with a guy she can't have (bonus awesome : no insta-love), there's also a murder mystery. And I didn't even come close to figuring it out.

I could go on, but I think you get the drift:


I don't think you have to be a fan of fantasy or dragons to enjoy this book. Just appreciate a well-told story with splendidly crafted characters, and you'll be good to go.

Anyone else read this? Plan to read it? Leave me a comment!


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Scarlet ARC winner...



 I've emailed the winner and she has 48 hours to respond. :)

Y'all, thanks for hanging with me over the course of the last few weeks. We had power outages, power surgest that fried my computer, problems with our ISP that made me seriously consider slamming my head into a wall, and then a few more computer problems just to keep things interesting.
So I know I haven't been able to review and talk books as much as I usually do, but I'll be back in the swing of things soon!!!

And when I do get back, we're going to talk about this book:

*I have a secret....shh. Come closer....
(this was actually my favorite of 2012. Don't tell Reached! Or Cinder!)
 We had such a good thing going, but at the very last of the year Seraphina showed up and floored me. I'll write a proper review soon. But until then, anyone else who wants to gush about this book, feel free! We'll be new BBBFF (book blogging best friends forever)!**

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A couple things AND "Scarlet" ARC Giveaway!!!

1. The winner of "Reached" by Ally Condie from my Best of 2012 Giveaway was Karlene B!!! Congrats!

2. I have been without a phone or computer for over a week. We had a bad ice storm and things have been rather pioneer-ish. (First World problems, I know!) I am not a fan of this current situation, especially since I missed all the fun year end memes going around the book blogging world. I'm using a borrowed computer right now at my parents' house, and eagerly waiting for the Geek Squad to finish working on mine. Because if someone hooks a generator to your house and everything isn't juuussst right, your computer might light up and then explode like it was a part of a  Griswold family Christmas. For future reference.

3.  Happier things now: Y'all, my reading slump is OVER! I finished 2012 strong with several amazing reads.

And the most fabulous part is I'm giving one away!!! I think you all will be as excited I was about it...drumroll, please....

An ARC of "SCARLET" by Marisasa Meyer.

*NOTE If I didn't have sick kids and a severe dislike for using my Mom's computer, I'd write a full review. And show you the nifty cover. But my toddler is getting tired of my blogging hobby. SO Instead...

How do I sum up my feelings about this book? As always, a gif is appropriate:


Fill Out the Rafflecopter to Enter! Following my blog gets you an entry, and bonus entries for sharing on Twitter or FB!

**THIS GIVEAWAY is for US Followers only.**

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